- Associated Press - Saturday, September 26, 2015

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Vidal Nuno gave up four runs on his first 14 pitches, and the opening game of the Seattle Mariners’ final road series of the season never got much better.

Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Angels surged within a half-game of playoff position with an 8-4 victory Friday night.

Nelson Cruz hit his 43rd homer and Logan Morrison drove in two runs for the Mariners, who have lost three straight for the first time since Aug. 19-22.

Seattle struggled for consistent offense against Garrett Richards (15-11), who struck out eight in seven innings of five-hit ball. The Mariners also loaded the bases in the eighth with a four-run deficit, but Trevor Gott struck out pinch-hitter James Jones.

“I thought we had real good at-bats against him and got his pitch count up,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said of Richards. “We battled and had him in trouble all night, but we couldn’t get the big hit to put us over the hump.”

Nuno (1-4) trailed 4-1 after six batters, and McClendon pulled him in the fifth in case he needs Nuno to start again early next week.

Cruz connected against Richards in the first inning, tying Baltimore’s Chris Davis for the major league lead in homers.

But the Angels evened it on Nuno’s first seven pitches, and they took a three-run lead after seven more.

Erick Aybar hit a leadoff double and scored when Trout’s jammed popup landed in right for a bloop double. Pujols followed with his 557th career homer.

“They’re fighting for a wild card spot, and they hit the ball good in the first inning,” Nuno said. “I was throwing that changeup a little bit too often. Trout got that bloop, then I was trying to go in on Pujols and missed my spot, and it was a 3-1 ballgame.”

Mike Trout went 3 for 5 with an RBI double as the Angels (79-74) won their third straight and nearly closed the gap on the Houston Astros (80-74), who lost to Texas, for the second AL wild card spot. Los Angeles also moved past the Minnesota Twins (78-75), who lost at Detroit.

Johnny Giavotella tripled and drove in two runs in his return from a 31-game absence for the late-charging Angels, who dropped far off the playoff pace while going 10-19 in August. They’re 14-8 in September, with six wins in eight games.

“It’s right where you want to be, definitely,” Pujols said. “But we haven’t earned anything. We’re just playing baseball, and we still have a few games left. We just need to win series and do whatever it takes to come out with the ‘W’ every night, and then we’ll see what happens at the end.”

Giavotella drove in runs in the fourth and sixth innings, punctuating his sixth-inning triple with a belly-flop slide into third.


Richards says he will start on three days’ rest next weekend if the Angels’ 162nd game of the season is going to determine their playoff fate. He is slated to start the final game of this homestand Wednesday against Oakland.


Pujols connected for his 37th homer, his biggest total in the $240 million slugger’s four seasons with the Angels. Although he can barely run due to a sore foot, Pujols has two homers in his last three games after hitting just one in his previous 25 games.


Mariners: McClendon isn’t sure whether left-hander James Paxton will pitch again this season, thanks to his torn fingernail.

Angels: Giavotella only regained his normal vision a week ago. “I was pretty much cross-eyed the first week after the incident,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to see again.”


Mariners: Felix Hernandez (18-9, 3.54 ERA) needs a victory to keep alive his shot at his first 20-win season.

Angels: Rookie Andrew Heaney (6-3, 3.30 ERA) pitched seven scoreless innings while winning in Seattle in July.

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